Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein
Gratitude Precedes Forgiveness
Rabbi Jay M. SteinWednesday, November 9, 2016 at 12:00:00 am
It is time to start healing, mending and fixing. For the past months we have been the "United, Divided States of America."
We live in an amazing country, with freedoms and rights, with prosperity and benefits. It is true that so many have so little in our country and we must continue to work towards greater social, educational and economic equality. However, we must also acknowledge the awesome privilege it is live here on these shores. Just speak with someone like Moises and Uman, who were with us this past shabbos and are recent émigrés from Iran, and you begin to really understand the opportunities we are afforded simply by living here.
We have so much for which to be thankful. It seems more than coincidental that a few weeks after the election we have a chance to come together. On Tuesday evening November 22, at 7:30pm the community of the Rivertowns will come together for a Interfaith Thanksgiving service. This year we host this gathering at Greenburgh Hebrew Center and this year it even more important that we come together. Religion must bring people together, raising us all to comprehend our greater humanity.
I ask you to put this brief gathering on your calendar, attend and make the statement that there is more that unites us than divides us.
Necessary but not Sufficient
Rabbi Jay M. SteinThursday, November 3, 2016 at 12:00:00 am
The Seven Noahide Laws, meant for the now-Jewish world, as traditionally enumerated are:
- Do not deny God.
- Do not blaspheme God.
- Do not murder.
- Do not engage in illicit sexual relations.
- Do not steal.
- Do not eat from a live animal.
- Establish courts/legal system to ensure obedience to the law.
When I was in elementary and high school, I would rush home and do my homework as fast as I could in order to get it out of the way so I could get on with more important things, like sports and t.v. This approach meant that I regularly got barely a passing grade and sometimes not even that. It also had the profound effect of leaving me unprepared for tests and class participation. The same is true for living within a moral framework. When we do the minimum required we are often left unprepared for what lies ahead.
For many, the Noahide Laws listed above, are all that is necessary for moral living. As the story of the flood unfolds, we recognize that it is a story for all humanity, not specific to the Jewish people. According to the story mankind is evil, God destroys the world; saves Noah; and together they start over. From this, the rabbis of the Talmud tell us there is a minimum standard of behavior for all. These are the Noahide Laws. While we know these laws are necessary, they are not sufficient.
If we want to cultivate a full, meaningful and powerful life we must do more.
Yes, We are All Human
Rabbi Jay M. SteinSunday, October 30, 2016 at 12:00:00 am
"I was afraid because I was naked." Genesis (3:10)
Adam utters this statement as soon as he discovers that he is naked (his punishment for eating of the forbidden tree). It is in that moment, when he recognizes he was wrong and there was no undoing what he had done, that he feels most exposed. By making a mistake he comes to realize he is human.
The message is simple and the lesson is profound. The message is, we are human. When stripped of all pretense and bravado, we recognize that we make mistakes. When we make mistakes we are exposed; we are ashamed; but it will not kill us. Certainly, Adam will now have to work harder to benefit from this world, but it does not kill him. In many ways he grows to appreciate the world around him even more.
One of the earliest lessons in the Torah is that as humans we make mistakes. How we react is important. We realize that mistakes are damaging. Sometimes they can be fixed and other times they alter the trajectory of our lives. No matter, we can move on and we can move forward. We should not feel defined by our errors. We must wake the next day as Adam did, get dressed and go out into the world.